I confess, I haven’t gone to chapel this semester. If I would have gone to chapel, I would have heard Dr. Thomas White deliver a sermon on Psalm 127. Here is a link to the full sermon. The controversial comments start at about 19:00.
Unfortunately, this is something that I have addressed before on this blog. Earlier this year I wrote about the views of Dorothy Patterson, wife of SWBTS President Paige Patterson, on birth control. You can check those out here and here.
The sermon by Dr. White was picked up by the local media, and I probably would not have heard anything about it had my Google News homepage not been setup to receive the local news. Here are the leading paragraphs from a WFAA article on their website:
FORT WORTH — A Southern Baptist leader and teacher has a message for women: Taking birth control pills is “murder” and a “sin.”
The opinion of Dr. Thomas White is reverberating around Baptist circles, and causing at least one Tarrant County pastor to publicly disagree.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, the Dallas Morning News picked up the story. Here is their lead-in:
Thomas White, the vice president for student services at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, created a bit of a furor when he declared at a campus chapel service earlier this month that the use of birth control pills is “murder of a life.”
Here is my opinion of the “furor:”
Statements made by religious leaders and institutions about birth control need be considered very carefully before they are made. The impact the statements make, especially in a denomination as large as the SBC could potentially reach millions of people within the SBC alone. Statements on birth control also need to be well reserached as Dr. White’s statements about BC are misleading and he offers no sources for his information and he also offers no alternatives.
I believe that Dr. White is causing an unnecessary uproar because he either failed to properly research the topic in preparation for his sermon, or he simply failed to mention the facts. Here are the facts from the Christian Medical Fellowship on hormonal methods of birth control:
the conscientiously taken low dose combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), Cerazette (a particular POP), the Depo-Provera injection and implant Implanon are all such effective anovulants (preventing ovulation and therefore fertilisation) that it is scientifically justifiable to conclude that they operate prior to fertilisation. The fact that they are capable of blocking implantation does not mean that they ever have to use this back-up mechanism.
Obviously a forgetful COCP user, particularly if taking Loestrin 20, Mercilon or Femodette (the lowest dose UK products), might run the risk of ovulation. It is the lengthening of the pill-free interval that causes pill-failure pregnancies and ‘near-misses’. Without lengthening of the pill-free time beyond seven days through non-compliance, fertile ovulation is very rare. Even if ovulation did occur without subsequent pregnancy, it does not follow that the COCP acted post-fertilisation: the sperm may have been blocked by COCP’s well-known effect on the mucus. Most experts believe that if sufficient pills were missed to cause the mucus mechanism to fail as well, there still wouldn’t be any interference beyond fertilisation; the anti-implantation effect (being the COCP’s weakest contraceptive effect) would fail also, leading to conception. Of course, one couldn’t be certain of this over many years of forgetful pill-taking. Still, we are talking about a forgetful pill-taker taking one of the weakest available pills.
If a couple hold the view that blocking implantation is a form of abortion and are worried about their own pill-taking compliance, one could recommend that they shorten their pill-free intervals and/or use the tricycle regimen (see below).
Depo-Provera (D-P) is a brilliantly effective anovulant if injected accurately every 12 weeks. For someone with concerns regarding its modes of action, there is the option of having the injection every ten weeks. This gives added confidence that ovulation is always blocked with the unacceptable back-up mechanism never being utilised.
While I’m not a doctor, in my personal research I have found that there is some controversy over the effectiveness of a progestin only pill (POP) at preventing ovulation. So, I would probably avoid that one. However, there is almost universal acceptance that combined hormonal methods are completely effective at preventing fertilization when used consistently.
Dr. White told an auditorium full of seminary students, and now whoever watches the sermon online, that the birth control pill is sinful and causes abortions. While he may be able to make an argument for that in the case of a progestin only pill, that evidence simply does not support the universal condemnation of all forms of birth control pills and claiming the sinfulness of those who use them. Statements like the one Dr. White made are irresponsible unless he has hard evidence to back up his claim and also presents all the facts, not just the ones that back up his personal convictions.
Dr. White also tries to claim that somehow using birth control goes against the Bible. This is an argument that has been tossed around for decades. I strongly agree that children are a gift from the Lord. I believe that one of the main reasons for marriage is to have children. For Christians, children are the primary way to continue to pass on Scriptural values into the next generation. However, this idea that using birth control is somehow wrong and we should all have twelve kids because they are blessings is wrongheaded and foolish.
When the Psalm was written that Dr. White cites, having a house full of kids was a necessity because it was primarily an agrarian society and the kids were necessary to keep the farm running. It was also necessary because people did not live as long and more children died before reaching maturity. Today, it would be simply irresponsible for some Christians to have that many kids. There are many families who would and do find themselves in poverty and unable to care for their families. How is it right to encourage them to have children they can’t provide for? Parents are supposed to be able to provide for their children and therefore must exercise responsibility in knowing how many children they can adequately provide for. How is it Scriptural to go and have as many kids as possible and then not be able to feed, clothe, and educate them properly?
Here is my personal opinion on the matter. My wife and I have been married for nearly three years and we do not have children yet. Following Dr. White’s reasoning, we are sinning and we apparently don’t see children as a blessing. The reason my wife and I do not have children yet is because we are trying to be as unselfish as possible when we do have kids. My wife works full time while I go to school full time. If we were to have a child now, the child would spend a good deal of time in a day care environment. The reason we are being so “selfish” is so that when we do have a baby that baby can have the best possible environment with at least one parent at home and health insurance to cover any emergencies. I don’t see that as being selfish, I see that as being wise. We are using this time before we have kids to prepare ourselves spiritually, mentally, and financially so that when Jr. comes along Jr. can be cared for. It is precisely because we see kids as a blessing that we don’t have one just yet.